The Chicago Bears have taken another significant step toward a potential suburban stadium on Wednesday, announcing that they have closed on the purchase of the Arlington International Racecourse property in suburban Arlington Heights.
The Bears made the announcement via a letter to their fans on social media.
“We took another step toward realizing that vision by closing on the Arlington Park property,” the Bears said.
The team cautioned that the purchase does not guarantee the development of a new stadium, but called the agreement “an important next step” in their evaluation of the project.
“There is still a tremendous amount of due diligence work to be done to determine if constructing an enclosed state-of-the-art stadium multi-purpose entertainment district is feasible,” the team said.
The Bears had reached an agreement to purchase the site last fall, and had been working with officials on finalizing details of that decision to buy the property.
Ultimately, the Bears plan to not only build a new state-of-the-art stadium on the property, fully enclosed with a dome, but they also intend to build a large-scale entertainment district around the venue as well, with enhanced services available via public transit to get fans to and from the stadium complex.
The Bears have said they do not anticipate requesting taxpayer funds for the stadium itself, but they may work with local and state officials on potential financing options for the entertainment district surrounding the stadium.
The Bears currently have a lease at Soldier Field through the 2033 season. The team would have to pay the city of Chicago to break that lease, but it is unclear when the Arlington Heights project would commence.
The city has put forward proposals to keep the Bears in Chicago, including a massive renovation plan that would build a roof over Soldier Field, increase seating capacity and expand transit offerings to and from the lakefront.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said that the move to close on the property had been anticipated for some time, but said the city will continue to work to convince the Bears to remain on the lakefront.
“We have an even better opportunity to continue making the business case as to why the Bears should remain in Chicago, and why adaptations to Soldier Field can meet and exceed all of the Bears’ future needs,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “There is simply no doubt that the economic benefits for the team of staying in a reimagined Soldier Field significantly outweigh those gained in a move to the suburbs.”
The mayor’s office says that they can open negotiations with the Bears now that the purchase agreement has been reached, something they could not do during the preliminary phases of that process.